Jan 212013

My column in today’s DNA

This is an old story that exists in many cultures in slightly varying forms. And, despite its folksy nature, it still holds lessons for today – be it in interpersonal conduct or in international relations.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a little coastal village. Three sides faced the sea, and the only way out to the big town was through a forest.  In the woods lived a great many animals, and most were hunted by the village – sometimes for food, other times for sport, yet others out of fear. Most of the residents of the forest stayed far away from the village. However, the King of Snakes had no option. His wife had just laid eggs, and he needed to stay and guard his family. The villagers found him, and fearing his poison began attacking him. The King of Snakes, did not become King by being a walk over, he was a fierce fighter and strategist. He began taking the war back to the village. A few excruciating deaths by snake bite later, the villagers suddenly found their exit out of the village blocked. The few who tried to go out were prevented by the Nagaraj. Amidst this chaos, arrived a Seer, with his disciples – by boat. The villagers received the Guru with due respect, and made his stay in the village comfortable. The Sage, pleased with the villagers, asks them if he can do anything for them. The villagers complain about the Snake. The Guru tells them, he will take care of it. When he approaches the home of the Nagaraj, the King of Snakes senses the Great Teacher and accepts him as a Guru for himself and his family. The Seer asks the Snake to leave the villagers be and not bite them. The Snake agrees. The teacher leaves telling the villagers that they had nothing to fear anymore. The villagers revert to their original terrorizing behaviour –attacking the Nagaraj, destroying some Eggs, harming the wife. But, the Nagaraj and his family stick to their vow of not harming the villagers. A few months later, the Sage is passing by again.. He comes across the bruised and battered Nagaraj family. He asks them what the matter was. Mrs.Nagaraj pours her heart out. The King of Snakes looks stoically on, and tells the Guru – I stood by my word, as promised to you ‘we did not bite them’. The Guru smiled sagely and said “but, I didn’t tell you not to hiss’.

It would be advisable for the Government and Policy Makers in India, who seek peace with Pakistan, at all costs, to read the story and internalise its teachings. A hint – The story is neither about villainous villagers nor about talking snakes – nor is it all knowing seers who provide life altering solutions. Instead, it is about projecting a vibe. A vibe which says, attack and it will cost you. Attack and you will pay the price.  The story is not about attacking, not in the least. It is also not about desiring peace so much that you get bruised and battered in the bargain. The learning from the story is simple – signal the fact that you are ready to attack to defend your turf, and willing to do grievous harm to keep yourself and those you have sworn to protect safe.

Indian Army – Image courtesy, DNA

Peace with Pakistan is a desirable end. But like any relationship, this one too cannot be built on lies. More importantly, peace cannot be built on a foundation of resentment. It has to be built on mutual respect and understanding. Nostalgia about shared history that one province in India shared with one province in Pakistan is not good enough for the rest of India to pay the price. Breaking of peace, going back on one’s word, killing soldiers, mutilating their bodies all have their origins at a single point – the last three Indian Governments have wanted Peace at all Costs. Both Mr.Vajpayee and Dr.Singh – both of whom have sought peace, have had to signal the end of talks and a willingness to walk away from the dream of  “Peace in our Times” to get Pakistan to back down. Unfortunately, to achieve Peace you have to show that you are ready for war.

There is a via media between the calls for war and nuclear war put forth by belligerent war mongers who want to raise viewership by raising tempers, and ‘lets hug a neighbour today’ view put forward by peaceniks who live in neither country. That via media is signalling your intent to let the peace process die, if attacked – either by uniformed men or non-state actors using Pakistan as a base. Enough, really, is enough.

May 082012

@pawandurani on twitter pointed me towards the story of Rinkle Kumari in Pakistan . I knew there was an issue vis-a-vis the rights of minorities across the board. I knew there were atrocities. but frankly, the occurrences across the border have not been in my line of sight. I read some articles/columns as and when I come across them, but it is very, very superficial reading. When Pawan pointed me to her story, i began reading about her in more detail. To paraphrase Stalin, one person’s story is a tragedy, millions are statistics


What i am going to do here is just compile content from various sources, it is heart rending. It is medieval and it makes you (me) cry at the tragedy of the entire thing. I totally respect journalists & activists such as Marvi Sirmed  in Pakistan working under tremendous pressure, in almost hostile territory,  not just towards minorities but also towards independent women who assert their citizenship rights,  to keep cases like this alive. I wonder if it was me, would I have that kind of courage that Marvi exhibits in such a hostile environment. or would it be more convenient to hold my peace …  I hope it is the former. I really do.

In short, Rinkle Kumari is one of the

three young Hindu women who were allegedly kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to Muslim men chose to live with their husbands instead of their families after the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday allowed them to choose their future.

Though the three women — Rinkle Kumari, Lata and Asha — were allowed to choose according to their free will by the court, their relatives and civil rights activists alleged that injustice had been done to them as they chose to go with the men they were married to out of coercion.


Marvi Sirmed writes on this

Rinkle was kidnapped on February 24 by Naveed Shah and four other people. Police refused to lodge an FIR and to include the names of the influential Mian Aslam, Mian Rafique and their father Mian Mithu. She was produced in the court of Civil Judge Ghotki where she insisted on going to her family but the judge illegally sent her to the police custody in Sukkur Women’s Police Station. In sheer mockery of the President of Pakistan and his party Co-Chairperson, Mithu announced in front of many civil society activists that if Rinkle’s custody is snatched from him, he will set Mirpur Mathelo ablaze. The president had given a media statement against forced conversions earlier that day. “Come what may, justice will have to prevail” was the answer in a firm strong voice when I asked Raj Kumar, Rinkle’s uncle, if he was scared. Probably this resolve has come from years of persecution and injustice. “It has been decades that Hindu girls have been abducted and forcibly converted. We hear little or no voice at all against this oppression,” said Amar Lal, counsel to Rinkle Kumari’s family.


A press release put out by activists and civil society says that

It made us extremely concerned when Rinkle Kumari was produced in the Supreme Court on March 26 and after recording her statement in-camera, she screamed in front of media that she wanted to go to her mother and that she was converted forcibly. We are astonished to know that Mian Mithu has been involved in buying and selling of Hindu girls, as has been reported in Sindhi language newspapers and as per information from the victims’ families. A girl Anita was abducted and married to a Muslim from whose home Mian Mithu’s nephew abducted her and sold her to another hand. She is reportedly living with her fourth buyer, reportedly at the behest of this Mian Mithu.


Mian Mithu is a MP. Rinku Kumari is a barely educated woman with zero rights because of both her gender and her faith.

The Question is what should India do ? Does India offer citizenship rights to all Hindus in Pakistan? it could. But, then why not all Christians – they face tremendous discrimination as well? Why not people from Baluchistan? indeed why not Ahmediyas. Why not women who are discriminated against? After all, civilisationally & culturally we – especially the Northern part of us – has a lot in common with those across the border. In fact far more in common with them than with citizens from the South or the North East or even the East. Why not those in Bangladesh or in China or the Burmese or Tamils from Sri Lanka? And should the granting of asylum be only for those of Indian origin?

I personally believe that India needs to evolve a very pro active system of granting asylum. We need to start projecting an image that respects rights and gives a home to those who are persecuted, discriminated and not allowed to excercise human rights. Ancient kings in the sub continent provided asylum to those who came to their shores without imposing any conditions on religion or colour. Be it the Siddhis or the Jews or the Iranians (Parsis) – they made their home and could practise their ways without interference.  The Government of India needs to throw open its doors to asylum seekers not just  in the neighbourhood, but world over

Will there be infiltration by unwanted elements. There already is. But the needs of the many outweigh the hate of the few. There will be those who misuse the system of asylum but one Rinkle Kumari saved outweighs the risk posed by the infiltrators.  Being a superpower is more than a seat at the security council. It is also standing up and being counted. India needs to open its doors for those who want to asylum. It needs to empower our consulates and embassies to grant asylum. The Indian embassies worldwide need to become the symbols of freedom. India needs to live up to its civilisational heritage – and that is more than a number system with a zero base.

Start offering asylum & citizenship  to the discriminated in Pakistan. Don’t be afraid of starting with providing asylum to the Hindus.  Set the precedent. Set the system and expand it to all who desire ashraya

Also have a look at this on storify 

Nov 292011

And after 4 days when the terrorists terrorized, the media went ballistic and people watched a spectator sport – it ended today, 3 years ago.

This morning I tried to look for the names of the police and the NSG men who died in the terror attacks. difficult to find the names in one place. Almost nada. Nothing. Zilch… there is something to be said about a culture that doesn’t mourn its dead, doesn’t feel a sense of loss … maybe that is why we get attacked – time and again. Not just because we have inept and venal politicians, but because the people don’t care.

The dead

JCP Hemant Karkare

ACP Ashok Kamte

PI Vijay Salaskar

PI Shashank Shinde

PSI Prakash More

PSI Baburao S. Dhurgude

PC A.R. Chitte

PC Vijay Khandekar

APSI Balwant C. Bhosale

APSI Tukaram S. Ombale

PC Yogesh Patil

PC Jayant H. Patil

PC Ambadas Pawar

PHC, RPF, M.C. Chaudhari

PHC, SRPF Rahul S. Shinde

Constable, Home GuardMukesh B. Jadhav

Major Sandip Unnikrushnan, NSG

Hv. Gajendra Singh, NSG

you read the addresses of the police who died – not the officers but the men -chawl x and chawl y. Do we even think about how the police live and work … to dismiss them with the ‘sab chor hai’ is so very, very wrong …

Ask… think. Reflect …


The list of all  those who died- police, security forces, civilians  –  in the terror attacks – Mumbai 26/11 via @onlysilly on twitter

Nov 282011

My column in today’s DNA

26/11. A day three years ago, when the average Mumbaikar’s sense of relative security was ripped out.

It isn’t that Mumbai was a haven of security and peace. Quite the contrary. The last two decades had been quite traumatic for the city of dreams. First came the gang wars, followed by the riots and then by bomb blasts s in the first few years of the 1990s. This had an impact on  the fabric of the city, and its psyche went through trauma that was best associated with other places Then came the sporadic bomb blasts – targeting trains, buses, inflicting death, damage and fear  on a population that was on the move, trying to create a better life for itself and its families. Yet the city plodded on. Then came the floods – a random cloudburst that shook the city up. You still see the aftermath of that incident. A heavy downpour and half of Mumbai seems to be indoors. And, then came 26/11. Possibly, the most traumatic of the lot. Not because it happened in the elite areas of Mumbai. Not even because of the toll, but because the enemy – and let’s not mince words about who they were – were able to sneak into our city with the utmost ease, and unleash carnage, while all that we could do was wait and watch. That they were able to do this in multiple locations including trains stations, hospitals and hotels with ease makes one feel even less secure. The kind of impotence and paralysis associated with the four days of bloodbath was without parallel. An elite, highly indoctrinated, professionally trained, well-armed killer squad landed in your city, your country, and killed, and killed and killed – and there was no way to stop them.

Three years down the line, what is 26/11 signify. Like much else in this country – a ritual. A ritual where we take out old candles and light them, a ritual in which we send a file to Pakistan to ask for justice, a ritual in which television anchors, newspaper editors and intelligentsia pontificate on what was, what should be and what isn’t. 26/11 has become a ritual. A ritual like all others. Garlands, flowers, candles, meaningless words – but have we really learnt ?

The primary goal of the state is to keep its citizens secure. And, to ensure this security forces have to be well staffed, well trained, well armed, well coordinated.  Mumbai, three years after 26/11, faces a 40 per cent shortage of police personnel. There simply aren’t enough police to take care of  law and order, let alone a terror attack. The remaining anti-terror infrastructure promised in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks is still in the distant horizon. There is no political party asking why jobs are not being filled – by locals or otherwise. There is no rath yatra highlighting the miserable state of security across the nation, and there is no activism on keeping citizens secure. While it may be impossible to prevent terror attacks 100% of the time, it shouldn’t be this easy for the enemy to get through the gates.

The response of the Americans and the Europeans to terror attacks on their territory was all party consensus on  the way forward. Can you see our politicians, our civil society, our citizens coming together on anything? If the Congress proposes something, the BJP has to oppose and vice versa. Everything is a party political issue. Everything is geared towards capturing the headlines. And, political capital is sought to be built on every little aspect of Governance – be it FDI or security. National Interest takes a back seat in this political edition of Tom and Jerry. What politicians seem to forget is that while Tom and Jerry is fun to watch, does one  really want them in charge of the Nation?

And Finally, Everyone knows where the terrorists came from. Everyone knows who funded them, trained them and deployed them. They also know that these weren’t non-state actors but a State itself. So why does India persist in this delusion of ‘we need to be friends’ with Pakistan. They aren’t our friends. They never have been. There doesn’t have to be a logical, understandable reason for their visceral hatred towards India. What there has to be is an appreciation on the Indian side, that some people just want to see your country burn. And those people are not hidden away in caves in the Hindukush mountains, but are within the Government of Pakistan.


Sep 142011

So Pakistan Published an Ad on 9/11. In the WSJ.


The trouble with laughing so much that your stomach hurts, is that there is no time to feel outrage 😀

And, then given that it is the net and there is a comic hidden under every ID – came the response


Boss, who ever you are, where ever you may be *claps* .. and thankyou
As Atal Behari Vajpayee once said poster ka jawaab poster se do 😀
(he didn’t, it was in reference to books, but hey, this is the net. if Pak can put out that ad, I can misquote ABV)